American chestnut branches


This is an example of an American chestnut tree reaching its branches out in the sun over Flint Pond in Lincoln. The long thread-like structures are male catkins, which are not yet showing anthers.

Identifying Your Chestnut Tree - Step 1 of 2

The first step in deciding whether your tree is a possible chestnut is to distinguish it from other trees which can be mistaken for chestnut trees. The chestnut genus "Castanea" is not the same as the horsechestnut family "Aesculus" or the beech genus "Fagus".

In a second step, you need to learn the differences between the common members of the Castanea family. In Massachusetts, these are the American chestnut (Castanea dentata), the Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), and the Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata).
Beech leaves Beech

If your tree lookes like this, then it is probably a beech tree. These trees have toothed leaves, and smooth gray bark. They also have long pointed buds. The leaf is wider and shorter than the American chestnut tree leaves.
Horse chestnut leaves Horsechestnut

If your tree has leaves like this, it is probably a horsechestnut tree. The leaves are "palmate", radiating from the center, and are arranged in a spoke. The tree is often found planted in towns. It originated in Europe, and it is often what people think of when they hear about "chestnut" trees. It is in a separate family called "Aesculus".

Identifying Your Chestnut Tree - Step 2 of 2

Once you have decided that you have a Chestnut, the second step in deciding if your tree is American chestnut is to distingush whether it is pure American, or if it has some non-American chestnut parentage.

Over the past hundred years or so, European, Chinese, and Japanese chestnut trees as well as hybrids have been planted in the natural range of American chestnut, so remote location is not necessarily a guide to a tree's parentage.
American chestnut leavesAmerican Chestnut

If your tree has long toothed pendant leaves like this, it may be a member in the chestnut family. The American chestnut has long canoe shaped leaves with a prominent lance-shaped tip, with a coarse, forward hooked teeth at the edge of the leaf. The leaf is dull or "matte" rather than shiny or waxy in texture.

Chestnut Family (Castanea species)

   Chinkapin Japanese Chinese European American Hybrids
 Leaf taper to stem straight curved curved curved straight

Be aware that all chestnuts can cross-pollinate, so that the chestnut you are trying to identify may actually be a mix of two or more different types of chestnuts, known as a hybrid.

We can attempt to identify your chestnut, if you are unable to do so, by means of a leaf and twig sample.

Please press one or two fresh leaves between cardboard with a 4-6 inch twig. Do not use plastic unless it is perforated or the leaves will mold. Crushed and bent leaves will not be in good enough condition to positively analyse.

Mail to:
TACF, P.O. Box 4044,
Bennington, VT 05201

Or in North-East to:
Charlotte Zampini
43 Wayside Road
Westborough, MA 01581

 Leaf taper to tip straight curved curved curved straight
 Teeth 1-3 mm, small, sharp, no hook tiny, often only bristles, no hook large or small, not pronounced or hooked big, sharp or rounded, no hook 6 mm, big, sharp, and often curved (hooked)
 Underside sun leaves hairy many large dots (glands), sun leaves hairy sparse dots, sun leaves hairy many small dots, sun leaves hairy on some specimens but not others many small dots, sun leaves not hairy, long sparse hairs only on midrib
 Twig hair tips, purple pink to light red, large white lenticels hairy tips, tan to pea green, large elliptical yellow lenticels stout, dark brown, small white lenticels slender, smooth, hairless, reddish brown, small white lenticels
 Bud 3 mm, downy dark red, pointed, longer than wide, sticks out from stem glossy brown, as long as it is wide (rounded) hairy, tan, dull brown to black, rounded and flat against stem dark red, fat and globular long 6 mm, smooth, reddish brown, pointed or longer than it is wide, sticks out from stem

1 nut,

1/2 tip pointed with a round cross section

2-3 nuts,

1-2 in.

2-3 nuts,

3/4-2 in.,

rounded hairy tip, sunburst pattern

2-3 nuts,

1-2 in.

2-3 nuts,

1/2-1 in.,

pointed tip, top 1/3-2/3 downy, sunburst at base

 Taste sweet not sweet sweet starchy sweet
 Blight resistance slight moderate high slight none

Other chestnut identification sites to improve your eyes...


Contact: Kathy Desjardin: 209 Richardson Street • Uxbridge, MA 01569 Phone: (508) 278-3565
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